How can you get your content noticed by Google and other search engines — and read by loads of people? How can you stop it from dying in the water the minute you publish it?

The first step is to forget SEO for a moment and focus on creating brilliant content that’s really valuable to the reader.

While many SEO practitioners will blind you with science, writing for people (and not search engine spiders) is absolutely crucial. Entertaining, useful, provocative, funny, opinionated content feels like a ‘free gift’.

It’s what attracts links and compels readers to share (which search engines totally love!). They feel excited to have stumbled across a ‘nugget’ and it gives them kudos to share something remarkable and say, “Ha, look what I found!”

Here comes the BUT…

No matter how mind-blowingly awesome your content is, it won’t ‘just work’, ranking highly on search engines, as if by magic. It needs help.

Once you’ve created content that’s well-written, valuable and relevant to your audience, a bit of artful keyword optimisation is still necessary. It waves a banner to search engines, saying, “Over here! I’ve got what you’re looking for!”, which helps the search engines see it and index it favourably.

Researching keywords can be fun. Honest! You can discover and mirror the language your audience is speaking, identifying the important keywords and phrases you need to use to get  your content noticed. It’s important that you include them in your titles, meta-descriptions and at junctures throughout the content, without overdoing it.

Great writers that understand SEO can do this seamlessly. They understand the right penetration of keywords to avoid ‘stuffing’, which flags content as spam, and disenchants the search engines.

The bottom line is that keyword optimisation is necessary, but it’s futile without compelling content. Before you get obsessed with keywords and phrases, make sure that you write quality content for people: for humans that can read, enjoy, share, link to and benefit from the words you are writing.

Don’t be driven by your own objectives when you’re writing, instead be motivated by helping your audience. Think about ‘what’s in it for them?’ when you’re writing and you will be some way towards writing rich, engaging content that can improve your authority, build a loyal audience and improve your search engine rankings.